First, we are safe. We are in our hotel in Bishop, CA. But, I need to tell you the story of what happened in Death Valley toward the end of our Death Valley day on Tuesday.
Our day started out in Las Vegas. Our purpose for visiting Vegas was for Julie to just SEE it and for me to revisit it (plus I wanted to see nearby Hoover Dam). I hadn’t been there in decades. Our reaction was the expected one—we were both pretty much repulsed by the craziness. Suffice it to say, it is not our type of town or vacation destination. We left as soon as we could and headed to Death Valley.
I hadn’t known what to expect at this destination (remember, I didn’t plan the trip) so we both were completely astounded at the beauty and grandeur of the different geological formations. It was other-worldly and we commented many times how we felt like we were visiting other planets. Reality seemed suspended to fit in the experience of the variance of color and texture and shape and size of everything that exists in this valley between two mountain ranges. The temperature peaked at 119 degrees and was rarely less than 109. Hot took on a whole new meaning.
So, when we were almost done with our east-to-west tour of the National Park, we went through a section of curvy, twisting, up-and-down road. We saw other cars, but they were sparsely separated from each other. We had just rounded a curve when I heard the loudest sound I’ve EVER heard in my life. An explosion of sound like something coming turbulently and earth-shatteringly from the Middle Earth. My steering wheel started shaking violently and my trauma was instant. I knew that the car had somehow just exploded. Would there be an engine fire? Did all the tires explode at once and fall off and we were skidding on the frame of the car? Did the engine fall out? Were we going to fall off the cliff? WHAT WAS HAPPENING???!!! Thoughts raced through my mind faster than I could keep up because the decibels of that noise made absolutely no sense from any point of reference in my life.
Julie started yelling as I just tried to keep the car on the road, which amazingly was kinda easy considering that it had just somehow exploded—or something! My heart was racing, my thoughts were spinning, trying to make sense with what was happening. Then I heard Julie yell “a jet….that was a fighter jet!” She figured it out in time to look out the window to see the jet heading straight down the side of the mountain we were driving on and then make a quick up and sideways turn and disappear. It had flown right over/beside us heading down the mountain. Seriously. Really? Yes. That happened.
I think it took me at least 30 minutes to calm the inner shaking. Cognitive thought sometimes can’t over-ride a visceral traumatic experience. Julie was stoked that she saw the jet fly right by the window. She waited excitedly for the second one that never came. I just tried to calm down and realize that my car was intact and we were OK and still driving on the mountain drive. I was ever-so-grateful for an undamaged car and to be driving on a curvy (and now a bit less scary) road. Whew.
We made it out of Death Valley and wound our way up north to a valley in California that is also nestled between the two largest mountain ranges in the state. Tomorrow we visit Yosemite National Park before making our way to my new home—Oakland, California. We will keep you posted.